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~ Previous Chapter ~
(Sorry it’s late, my laptop was not in the mood to play yesterday.)
Yullik staggered into the rough wall as the huge miryhl shoved past him, bursting into the cavern beyond, desperate to find his Wingborn. Yullik let him go without protest, learning his back against the sturdy rock and drawing in deep, measured breaths.
Fire raced beneath his skin, wanting out, wanting to tear, to burn, to destroy. It hurt, but he welcomed the pain, letting it wash through him and incinerate the memories, sear away the taste of blood on his lips, in his mouth. There had been so much blood.
Nisha. His Nisha.
Blood and bone, he’d forgotten. Had tried to forget. Had forced himself to forget. Even the remembered pain was a struggle to get through. He flattened a hand over his aching chest, feeling the beat of his heart. Strong, sure, hard and a little fast, perhaps, but still going. Even though it felt like it had been ripped out all over again.
He tightened his fist, feeling his claws scrape against his skin. He welcomed the pain, willing the fire into his palm to burn a reminder into his flesh. He was alive. He had survived. That time was past and all those responsible were dead. He’d made certain of it.
“Mhysra!” The cracked and desperate scream of the Wingborn allowed Yullik to shake free of the memory of losing his own.
He straightened, frowning at the miryhl limping around the cavern, his desperation so much richer than it had been mere moments ago. Had he seen the memory too? A memory that Yullik had buried so deep it had been almost forgotten until it brought him close to his knees beneath the mountain. Impossible. Miryhls couldn’t form physic connections, their minds didn’t work that way.
And yet…and yet…
He narrowed his eyes. The girl. She had done something to him. He had formed their connection, but she was using it somehow, twisting it, trying to weaken him with it.
Two could play at that game.
“Mhysra!” the miryhl shrieked, spinning around in the shadowy cavern and stopping with his eyes on Yullik. “Where is she?”
Yullik tilted his head at the command and dropped his hood to smile. “Not here. Obviously.”
Snarling, the Wingborn launched at him, using his wings to cover the distance that his wounded leg wouldn’t.
Yullik was too swift. He stepped back and pulled on the mountain, closing the gap in the cavern that he’d only recently formed. Pressing his hand to the thin wall, he listened to the trapped miryhl’s screams of rage and smiled.
“Enjoy your stay.” He patted the rock and walked back to the edge of the mountain, the stone filling in behind him. One Wingborn was secure. Time to deal with the other. Her courageous rescuers were on the way, expecting challenge, peril and death. It would be a shame to disappoint them.
Reaching the sheer cliff, Yullik formed his wings and took off. He had work to do.
* * *
“CUMULO!” MHYSRA WOKE with a start, heart thundering, limbs shaking. She could taste blood. Crying out, she rolled onto her side and vomited on the floor, then was forced to lie panting on her stomach, wracked with pain and the terror of her dream.
They’d tortured her miryhl, broken, plucked and bled him, and she’d… she’d… No. She wouldn’t think about it, couldn’t bear to. It was awful. Her heart felt broken and she knew it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true. She wouldn’t let it be true.
Cumulo’s eyes were gold and he didn’t have white on his wings. It wasn’t him.
“It wasn’t him,” she reminded herself, forcing the words to stick. Because she wouldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it. No one would do that to a miryhl. No one. Not even Yullik.
He’d claimed to be Wingborn. He would never do such a horrific thing to another.
He was Wingborn…
Yullik. The miryhl in the dream had called her Yullik.
Mhysra threw up again. Dear gods, it couldn’t be true. It couldn’t.
But if it was… gods.
“I have to get out of here.” Sliding her hands under her shoulders, she shuffled to the other side of her bed. With one knee of the floor, she levered herself upright. She’d been practising and didn’t even need the help of her babies anymore. She swayed on her knees and looked up. The kitchen was empty. No Riame, no Rion, not even her babies. She was alone.
She was always alone, she reminded herself. No matter how friendly Riame seemed, she wasn’t a friend. No matter how fond she’d grown of her babies, they were still kaz-naghkt. They weren’t hers and she wasn’t theirs. She didn’t belong here; she had to leave before she forgot that. Before she forgot everything Yullik had done, all the people who had died because of him, all the suffering he had caused.
She had to go before she started sympathising with him. Before she started seeing his point of view. Before she agreed with him. Because she didn’t know what she would do if Cumulo was permanently taken from her. If she also had Yullik’s powers…
“No.” She gripped the table and pulled herself to her feet. She wasn’t going to think along those lines, she was going to leave. She was going to find her Wingborn and get out of here. Forget all about her dreams and sympathies. Yullik ses-Khennik was a monster and she didn’t care why or how he came to be that way. All that mattered was what he’d done.
“Corin,” she reminded herself, and found enough strength to take three steps towards the door. “Skybreeze.” Three more. “Kilai.” More steps. “Cirrus.” More. “Jynese.” More. “Captain Hylan.” Yet more. “Captain Fredkhen.” Names came easily, friends and faces and Riders she’d admired. They filled her with more strength than she’d thought possible in this dark and treacherous place. Her progress was halting, her footsteps staggered, but she didn’t stop, she didn’t collapse, and her knees were no longer weak.
She reached the kitchen door and closed her hand around the handle.
“Corin,” she whispered again, turning the latch. “Kilai.”
She pushed open the door and stumbled out into the rain.
~ Next Chapter ~
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